PHOENIX — With a ceremonial signing, Valley Metro celebrated securing funds for the Northwest Light Rail Extension Phase II.
$160 million of the $400 million price tag for the project is now in the bag.
A ceremony was held Friday in front of the old Metro Center Mall. Local, state, and federal dignitaries were on hand for the event including US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Senator Mark Kelley, and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
The northwest extension is 1.6 miles of light rail from 19th Avenue and Dunlap to the now-closed Metro Center Mall.
Valley Metro says the extension will breathe new life into the struggling area, including new investments and new jobs.
Secretary Buttigieg touted the extension as the type of project the federal government aims to support.
"The northwest extension of light rail reflects so many of the values that matter to this administration and this community," Buttigieg said.
Mayor Gallego is also excited about what's to come.
"I can't announce anything today but very soon you should look for a major press release about Metro Center and an incredibly exciting investment," she said.
Senator Kelly says he is optimistic about the growth the light rail could bring.
"An extension of light rail through Phoenix here at the old Metro Center Mall is a prime example of something that I think of in terms of jobs, a lot of good-paying jobs," Kelly said.
Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith admits ridership is down about half from pre-pandemic levels which saw 50,000 light rail riders a day. But he's confident the riders will return.
"It's increasing. We're finding people are returning to norms, they're going to games, they're going to concerts and they're going to work. These are generational investments," Smith said.
Smith says Valley Metro is poised to receive even more federal funds from the newly passed infrastructure bill.
"We haven't got the details yet. That'll come out in the next few months and year, but we know there is more money available. The federal government is anxious to help communities make these investments, and we're looking forward to that," Smith said.
The Northwest Extension Phase II is scheduled for completion in 2024.